In Waldera v. Waldera, the Wife appealed the amount of the alimony that was awarded to her by the trial court in the Final Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage. She argued that the trial judge reached an erroneous alimony determination, by improperly calculating her Husband’s income. In reaching its calculation, the trial court relied solely on the Husband’s income for one year. The Florida Court of Appeal agreed with the Wife that this was an error. The appellate court pointed out that in making an alimony determination, a trial court is required look at all sources of income that are available to both parties. For purposes of determining alimony, income is considered to be any type of payment, regardless of the source. Income includes salary, bonuses, commissions, and earnings as an independent contractor. In awarding alimony, courts are required to consider all economic factors, including income, past earnings, net worth, and the parties’ assets. In this case, although the trial court was presented with evidence concerning the Husband’s income between 2009 and 2016, the trial court only considered the income that Husband earned during the year preceding the entry of the Final Judgment for Dissolution of Marriage. The appellate court pointed out that there is a presumption that a payor will continue to earn the same amount that he or she has historically earned, unless there is evidence to the contrary.
Additionally, in awarding alimony, a trial court may average a payor’s previous earnings when it would realistically represent a payor’s annual income. However, a trial court may only average a party’s past income when it demonstrates a party’s current ability to pay. In this case, the Husband’s historical income gave rise to a presumption that the Husband could continue to earn a higher salary than was determined by the trial court, and there was no evidence presented that would rebut this inference. Accordingly, the case was reversed and remanded to the trial court for redetermination.
To speak with an alimony attorney, contact Matthew Lane & Associates, P.A. at (561) 328-1111.